Google Places Cuts Third-Party Reviews
By Ralf Skirr.
“Against our privacy.” “Unprofitable.” “Leaves us with little choice.”
These seem to be the issues that pushed Google administrators to change Google Places’s content and formatting and present a revamped Google Places last Thursday afternoon.
If you visited Google Places on July 22, you have probably already noticed the difference—third-party reviews are completely removed. This means that Google Place pages, which used to show snippet reviews from sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, are now a lot cleaner in the sense that they hold a lot less information.
Overall ratings are now based only on a few reviews and ratings left by Google users. Although they provide insight, Google Places pages now seemed to be stripped of its former value. Considering it’s supposed to be users’ one-stop-shop for information, the move seems to be proving the opposite.
It’s in line, of course, with my prediction that Google will rely more and more on its own content, and significantly reduce references to other people’s content. As odd as it sounds – it will even happen on search results pages!
Organizations are apparently requesting followers to leave reviews as well to reestablish their now relatively empty pages. This seems to be one of the contracting issues about the Google Places change. That is, while some think that they will get less exposure since Google Places usually rank high in search engine results pages, others think that the change is providing smaller and newer establishments to get a head start.
Google Places now also put more emphasis on encouraging visitors to give reviews. Whereas the “Write a Review” prompt is shown as mere link before, it now stands out in a big red box that somehow screams “Review, please!” However, it must be noted that for users to leave a review, they must first log in using their Gmail accounts.
The Reason behind the Move
Now, you’re probably wondering: why exactly did Google Places have to take a drastic step? Aside from the fact that Google has been getting a lot of complaints from business owners saying that they’re getting nothing from Google Places, as surmised in the first few sentences of this news article, Google is also trying to avoid hitting the wrong nerve.
A month ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) started a stricter anti-trust investigation of Google and its web advertising dominance. FTC is an independent agency in the US that aims to promote consumer protection, both offline and online, and its tasks include investigating issues raised by reports from consumers and businesses—that’s why the change.
With the European Commission still hot on its heels after complaints from Foundem, a European business, Google is probably hoping not to dig its own grave. So while a lot of users have already expressed disapproval, Google Places is firm on its stance.
Some Hopes for the Future
It’s obvious that most users are skeptical of the change in Google Places. Nevertheless, there are some that see the brighter side. For one, some speculate that this can be the start of a good connection between Google Places and Google+ wherein users can easily leave reviews or find establishments faster than through regular search engine queries.
How about you? What do you think will this change in Google Places bring?